Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Mary Delach Leonard

Work/Life Reporter

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

Ways to Connect

David Burks mans the Salvation Army's red kettle outside the Walmart store in Granite City.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Salvation Army bell-ringer David Burks was making a joyful noise in front of the Granite City Walmart on a recent Friday morning. He greeted everyone who passed his red kettle, whether they dropped in pennies or a folded dollar bill or hurried by without a glance.

“You have a good day now. Thank you, and God bless you.”

The fundraising goal for the Granite City Salvation Army is $88,000 this Christmas season, and it will take thousands of drops in the buckets to get there. The Salvation Army says its trademark red kettle campaign is as important as ever because many have been left behind by the nation's rebounding economy.

Avoid online and computer scams
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Giving to worthy causes on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving has become a tradition for people who want to help charities and nonprofits. But the Better Business Bureau warns that scammers could also be tugging at your heartstrings on Giving Tuesday.

Thousands of legitimate local and national groups use social media and email appeals to spread their messages — and so do the cheats, said Tracy Hardgrove of the St. Louis Better Business Bureau. Their scam appeals might direct donors to websites that look authentic or that have names similar to real charities. 

Thomas Hoff, a museum educator with St. Louis County Parks, speaks during a wreath-laying ceremony to honor veterans at the World War I memorial in downtown Clayton on Friday. Nov. 9, 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As world leaders meet Sunday in France for a grand tribute marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, a group of St. Louis area veterans will gather at a stone picnic shelter at Sylvan Springs Park in St. Louis County to solemnly call the roll of Missourians who died “over there.”

They plan to begin at 11:11 a.m. — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — the beginning of the ceasefire a century ago that, in effect, ended the war. Each name will be followed by the tolling of a bell.

The Court of Honor across from the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum now features a fountain and reflecting pool to honor area service members who died in World War II.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Soldiers Memorial Military Museum reopens Saturday after a $30 million project to restore the grand 80-year-old landmark in downtown St. Louis.

The memorial was built during the Great Depression to honor 1,075 area soldiers who died in World War I. The reopening ceremony will kick off a week of events leading up to Veterans Day on Nov. 11, the centennial of the armistice that ended the war.

Ron Lane works in the heat shield area of the GM Wentzville Assembly Center. Lane is one of about 350 veterans that work at the plant.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Thousands of cheering well-wishers lined the streets of downtown St. Louis on Jan. 28, 2012, to welcome home veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The “Welcome Home the Heroes” parade — a rousing patriotic party with floats and marching bands — made national headlines because it was the first of its kind in the nation.

But many of the veterans honored on that crisp Saturday afternoon were unemployed. Their transition to civilian life was bogged down by an economy still trying to shake its hangover from the Great Recession — a struggle that continues for some veterans.

Laura and Patrick Banks September 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Laura Banks was all smiles as she showed a guest around the split-level home in south St. Louis County that she and her and husband bought a year ago, days after returning from their honeymoon.

Built in the 1970s, the house has a lower level they’ve furnished with a big-screen TV and a vintage bar for entertaining. She grows herbs, tomatoes and sweet potatoes in the backyard.

Homeownership marks a major financial milestone for Banks, who graduated from college in 2009 when the unemployment rate was nearly 10 percent. It’s a sign that, like many millennials, she’s recovering financially after struggling to survive the Great Recession.

A sign outside the Missouri Network for Opiate Reform and Recovery advertises Narcan, a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.
File photo |Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:45 p.m., Sept. 20, with comments from Surgeon General Jerome Adams — A nationwide campaign is needed to combat the opioid abuse epidemic that has damaged many families and communities, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Thursday.

Adams and officials from the U.S. Health and Human Services department visited the St. Louis region to discuss the challenges communities face in dealing with opioid addiction. To address the crisis, Health and Human Services officials announced this week that the federal government will give states $1 billion to fight opioid addiction, including $44 million to Illinois and $29 million to Missouri.

Conservationists say the population of Monarch butterflies has been declining since the late 1990s.
Courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation

Missouri conservationists will hold a festival Saturday at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weldon Spring Site in St. Charles to ask gardeners to help boost the declining population of Monarch butterflies.

Researchers say the population of the iconic butterflies has declined by 80 percent since the late 1990s, largely due to the loss of their habitats. 

Weldon Spring, which is best known as a federally managed nuclear waste site, now has a thriving native prairie garden that attracts Monarchs, said Bob Lee of Missourians for Monarchs, which is organizing the Monarch Madness festival.

Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee will be at the East St. Louis Heritage Festival on Sunday. Aug. 26, 2018
Provided by lllinois Bicentennial Commission

East St. Louis will celebrate its own rich history on Sunday as it joins about a dozen Illinois cities holding celebrations to mark the state’s bicentennial.

The East St. Louis Heritage Festival at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center will note the 200th anniversary of the state’s first constitution, signed in Kaskaskia on Aug. 26, 1818. The festival also will celebrate remarkable East St. Louisans, like iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, Olympic gold medalist Joyner-Kersee, and others.

Ralph Toenjes carries game-used baseballs during an Aug. 16 game from the Cardinals' dugout to the Authentics Shop in the right field concourse of Busch Stadium.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

What happens to all those used baseballs the umpires toss out of games at Busch Stadium?

After Keith Duncan of St. Louis submitted that question to our Curious Louis feature, we went to the Aug. 16 game between the Cardinals and Washington Nationals to find out.

That’s where we found Ralph Toenjes hard at work, happily greeting fans at the Authentics Shop, located behind center field. Toenjes sells memorabilia, including used baseballs, fresh from the field. During games, it’s his job to fetch baseballs from the Cardinals dugout every two or three innings.

A community chorus rehearses for a performance of "The Flood," a concert musical about the effect of the Great Flood of '93 on the village of Valmeyer. July, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A community chorus stood shoulder to shoulder, 30 members strong, on the sanctuary steps of St. John United Church of Christ in Valmeyer, Illinois, on a recent Monday evening. Sopranos, altos, baritones — their voices blended as one — rising and falling with lyrics inspired by the Great Flood of '93.

The words weigh heavily on those in the group who experienced firsthand the Valmeyer flood. They remember as if it were yesterday, that steamy, chaotic summer spent shoveling sand into thousands of bags and heaving them onto earthen levees that had protected their little town for half a century.

This time, the Mississippi River won.

CEO Bob Chapman, right, talks to an employee at a Barry-Wehmiller factory.
Provided by Barry-Wehmiller

Barry-Wehmiller’s leadership philosophy is spelled out on a wall outside the company’s parking garage in Clayton. Employees and visitors see it, coming and going:

“We imagine a society in which people care about each other first.”

A child runs through the reflecting pool at the Gateway Arch. The new museum and upgraded grounds were christened Tuesday, July 3, 2018, after a five-year renovation project.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The Normandy High School Band provided the beat and Mother Nature brought on the heat, as hundreds gathered on the St. Louis riverfront Tuesday morning to celebrate the opening of the new museum and visitors center at the Gateway Arch.

The ribbon cutting marked the final stage in a five-year project to revitalize the Arch grounds. Speakers emphasized the public-private partnership that planned and funded the $380 million project.

A worker at the new entrance to the Gateway Arch on June 19, 2018.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Thirteen-year-old Makenna Farnsworth had just been to the top of the Gateway Arch.

“It’s really cool to be up there,” she said, looking back at the stainless-steel monument looming above her, gleaming in the hot sunshine.

And she knew the answer to the top Arch trivia question: How tall is it?

“Six-hundred-thirty feet!”

That sums up all Makenna knew about the iconic monument, which on Tuesday will open a revamped museum with all new exhibits.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 14, 2011 - The best fans in baseball did their part at Busch Stadium Thursday night: They cheered themselves hoarse, fervently waved their rally towels and turned their baseball caps inside-out to coax a do-or-die rally in the bottom of the ninth with the Cardinals trailing the Brewers 4-2.

Granite City native Jason Fernandez, who serves as vice president of Local 1899, was laid off 10 years ago during the Great Recession.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

After a two-year wait for jobs to come back, steelworkers threw an old-fashioned street party on Saturday, just blocks from U.S. Steel’s Granite City plant.

It was a “fire up” party to celebrate 500 people finally going back to work to start up a blast furnace that was idled in December 2015, said Dan Simmons, president of United Steelworkers Local 1899.

Granite City steel plant on July 20, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Steelworkers are about to start making steel again at U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works — and they’re throwing a street party on Saturday to celebrate.

In March, U.S. Steel announced that it was restarting one of its two blast furnaces at the plant and would recall about 500 steelworkers. They were laid off in December 2015 when the company idled its steelmaking facilities in Granite City.

Autoworker Chris Paplanus says umpiring helped him stay afloat after he was laid off from Chrysler during the recession. (April 11, 2018)
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On a breezy spring evening, Chris Paplanus donned his umpire gear to work the plate at a girls softball game at the Chesterfield Valley Athletic Complex.

It was a long first inning, with the 14-year-old pitchers on both teams struggling mightily. Each time Paplanus called a strike — Hup! — the sidelines erupted in supportive cheers.

By day, Paplanus, 60, is an autoworker at the General Motors Assembly plant in Wentzville, where he began working after a life-changing layoff a decade ago.

David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Public service ads about foreclosure were all over the nation's airwaves by late 2007, airing frequently at night when worried homeowners couldn’t sleep.

The messages, accompanied by somber music and stark images, urged U.S. homeowners to take action — to call a hotline or their lenders if they were falling behind on their mortgages:

“Foreclosure doesn’t affect just you, it affects your whole family, too … Because nothing is worse than doing nothing.”

The grounds crew works on the field at Busch Stadium last week. Construction was still under way on the Budweiser Terrace, a new social gathering area in the upper right field seating sections. It will feature lounge seating, standing areas and two bars.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

After a cold and wet start to the season, Major League Baseball finally sloshes into the Gateway City at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, when the Clydesdales take their first strut of the season around the warning track at Busch Stadium.

The St. Louis Cardinals are promising all of the traditional trimmings for their home-opening ceremonies: Motorcades will deliver the Hall of Famers and the 2018 team to home plate. There will be a color guard, a giant American flag at center field, and — weather permitting — a flyover by a KC-135 Stratotanker, an Air Force refueling aircraft.

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